Fun fact: So, Halloween is not celebrated here in Africa. When I try to explain the idea to people, it usually just comes across as something voodoo people do everyday. Haha. On the opposite hand, All Saint's Day (it's called Toussin out here) is much more celebrated. It's a national holiday! The banks (and even ATMs) closed this morning (the day before the actual holiday) at 11am, so that was a fun surprise. (; Anywho, to celebrate, everyone goes to the cemeteries and helps to clean, arrange, and decorate the tombstones. It sounds pretty cool!
Speaking of Halloween, let's get to this story:
Imagine yourself, at home, going about your day. At the beginning of a new day, you go to iron your shirt. You plug in the iron, and you turn the dial to warm it up. As you turn the dial, the brightness of your living room lights increases, accompanied by a buzzing sound. Amazed, you turn off the iron, and the lights dim as well. You turn the dial again, and the lights return, as well as the buzzing. You go to turn off the lights, and everything in your home that's plugged in turns off. In the afternoon, you need to make rice in the rice cooker, but it doesn't turn on unless the lights (and everything else) is on. During the nighttime, as you come home from your day, you turn on your living room lights to plan your next day, but, as luck would have it, your porch light doesn't work. You sit down to plan, and then, five minutes later, the living room lights diminish, and the porch light turns on. Naturally, you freak out. Five minutes later, the lights switch back to the way you found them. Exasperated, you try to go to bed, but your fans turn very slowly, almost as if they are dead. Another five minutes pass, and the fans kick up, like wild horses. Five minutes later, they go back down to low life. This five-minute-cycle repeats all throughout the night. And, to make things even more frustrating, when everything is turned off, there is one thing that stays lighted up: a weird doorbell we have next to one of our bathrooms, that has never lit up, and that reminds me of the Eye of Sauron.
Well, we had the electricians come over, and the problem turned out to be the wires. The electricians rewired everything, and after about two days, it was all fixed up. As a bonus, they fixed the surplus in one of the living room power sockets that's been there since I came to Attiegou, so now we can hook up some fans right next to our couches. We consider ourselves super blessed to have functional power again. (:
Me and Elder Angbo are getting along great, as usual. It has been such a wonderful blessing to be able to work with him, he's such an incredible, nice, effective missionary. The Lord sure has blessed me with a wonderful companion.
Sam is doing marvelous, as usual. Malik is doing good too. He's really struggling with the comprehension, so we have to keep things pretty simple with him, but that's okay, I love simple. He hasn't been keeping his commitment to come to Church, but that's okay, I'm not giving up yet! (:
Sika refused to be taught at the church this week. He said he was going on a visit up north, and that he didn't have time to come to the church to be taught, even though it would've taken exactly the same amount of time as being taught in his house. One thing about me, that I've found on the mission, is that when people don't even try to keep commitments, I get rather grumpy. Well, long story short, I got grumpy with Sika, and we left in a huff. Walking away, we didn't really know where to go, so I stopped and said a prayer in my heart. The Spirit tenderly prompted me: "You know, Phillips, that wasn't really a Christlike-way to act. You should go back and say you're sorry." We went back, and I completely apologized to Sika. We decided to just read a chapter from the Book of Mormon together (Moroni 7). I encourage you all to read it, it's such a sweet, tender chapter, and the entire time we read it together, I felt as if Mormon had written that chapter just for a frustrated Elder Phillips on a hot October morning. The Lord sure is tender in His mercies. (:
Frère Bakana, like the stud he is, went above and beyond the call of duty (as he always does), and in his spare time, he reviewed all of the baptismal interview questions with Ahwefah. Unfortunately, Bakana was busy at a funeral all of Saturday, so Ahwefah had to do the baptismal interview in French all on her own. It was tough for her, but she passed! Her baptismal service was great. Well, for the most part, the font was only filled to Elder Angbo's knees, so she had to be baptized five times, but hey, as the saying goes, "fifth time's the charm!" (;
Sunday was wonderful. The evening before, I had read Doctrine and Covenants, section 59, verses 9 to 12, which reads: "And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High; Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times; But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord." So I came to the sacrament, prepared to be sanctified, and I felt that feeling. If there has been one thing about myself that's changed since I left for my mission, I would say that I know how to use the Atonement more fully.
Running on this theme, we found a less-active man that afternoon named René, who is super cool. We started the lesson off by asking him if he had any concerns, and he just spilled out the entire story of why he doesn't come to church anymore, right then and there. It took over an hour to tell, and he even cut some parts short for us. Long story short, he had a falling out with his fiancée, and he just spent months wandering around, seeking help from anything spiritual he could find, including voodoo priests. As he was telling his story, I focused entirely on just listening to him, and I could see how confused and spiritually lost he felt. I could tell that he was disconnected from the source of all spiritual light, and that he was wandering in the dark, searching for the power outlet.
At the end of his story, I knew what he needed, but I didn't know how to say it in words. Elder Angbo, of whom I am so proud, gave the most inspired comment I've ever heard a companion give during my mission. Afterwards, he said that while he listened to René, he tried to apply his story to himself, and acquire empathy, to imagine how he would react if the same things happened to him. That's a totally inspired aspect of listening that I've never thought of before, but it totally makes sense. Elder Angbo said that when we turn to the devil, we can't expect anything good in return. He just testified of Christ's Atonement, and how no matter how lost we may become, we can always start over and have a fresh, clean, new start. I added my testimony of the power of Christ's Atonement, of how it can cleanse and purify us and reach us no matter where we are. We promised René that we're here to help, and he accepted us gladly. We're going to see him again during the week, we left him a couple of chapters in the Book of Mormon (Alma 38 and 39), and we've been working on a plan to get him where he needs to be, step by step, including reading the Book of Mormon, praying, coming to Church, getting help from Church leaders, and coming back to the fold. It was one of the greatest lessons I've ever been in during my mission, and I feel blessed to work with such wonderful people.
In all, Christ's Atonement is perfect. I testify to you all that no matter what happens, or how lost you may be, whether sins, trials, mistakes, weaknesses, or any other burdens fall upon you, you are always within the reach of the Savior's Atonement; He will heal you, and make you whole. The Savior has said Himself: "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more," (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42). What an amazing, amazing promise. As President Boyd K. Packer has taught:
"The Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed. … It just heals, and what it heals stays healed... I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. He stands at the head of the Church. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, He has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. There are so many of us who are thrashing around, as it were, with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity. I am so grateful for the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the power of procreation, for the power of redemption, for the Atonement—the Atonement which can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated. The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily, to pursue that path that you have chosen in life. I bear witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Atonement is not a general thing that is for the whole Church. The Atonement is individual, and if you have something that is bothering you—sometimes so long ago you can hardly remember it—put the Atonement to work. It will clean it up, and you, as does He, will remember your sins no more."
While I have not yet lived the experiences that President Packer lived, I add my testimony. I know that the Atonement works, and is applicable!
I love you all, and I wish you a happy Halloween! And happy birthday, Adam!
P.S. Also, funny story: one of the Priesthood leaders in our ward is kind of a serious, stern guy, but when I speak Ewé with, him, he seems to lighten up. Well, one evening, I needed to call him and tell him "President, I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you that we have a meeting tomorrow at 9am," and I tried to say it in Ewé, but I got my words mixed up, and I said "President, I'm sorry, I love you, we have a meeting tomorrow at 9am." He was super confused, I was super embarrassed, and Elder Angbo and I laughed for a long time. Haha. (;
We had a zone meeting on Tuesday, and it went very well. Elder Omotoyinbo (our new zone leader) and I swapped some Akpakpa stories, and as it turns out, Galiac and Ruth, a less active couple that Hansen and I worked with, are completely active, and are preparing to go to the temple! How cool is that? The Lord sure is blessing us for our service.
Well, ey zandé (until next time)! Mawu ni fomi-loh (May God wake you up in good health tomorrow morning)! Akudré Iesu-loh (May you dream of Jesus)! (: